Retailers record best sales for more than a year

CBI sees first rise in high street sales since early 2008

UK retailers posted a surprise increase in sales in the first half of April – the first uplift for more than a year – in a further sign that trading conditions are improving on the high street.

The CBI's Distributive Trades Survey revealed that 44 per cent of retailers posted higher sales volumes in the first half of April, compared with the same period last year, while 41 per cent said that sales had fallen.

The net balance of 3 per cent delivering growing sales was the highest figure since January 2008. It also supports data unveiled earlier this month by the department store Debenhams and the chocolatier Thorntons, which both returned to underlying sales growth recently.

Andy Clarke, the chairman of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda's chief operating officer, said: "The good turnout by shoppers over this year's later Easter may well have influenced the April retail figures, and while they mark a respite they should not be taken as an indication of a high street revival. With unemployment rising and growth in average earnings down, consumers remain very wary, and retailers themselves think that sales will drop again in May."

While retailers were boosted by the sunny weather and the Easter bank holiday, the uplift in sales was also widely unexpected given that a balance of 41 per cent of retailers had forecast sales volumes would be down between 1 April and 15 April, revealed the CBI.

In April, all food retailers delivered rising sales volumes and a net balance of 58 per cent of footwear and clothing were also in positive territory, but all other sectors posted a decline in sales.

The worst performing sector was durable household goods, with a net balance of 87 per cent of retailers reporting declining sales in the first half of April, while sales also fell at a balance of 48 per cent of furniture retailers. Booksellers and stationers also endured a torrid start to the month as a net balance of 67 per cent said that sales fell.

However, while April's retail sales volumes represent a marked improvement on the net balance of 44 per cent of those surveyed posting falling sales in March, a balance of 15 per cent of retailers still expect sales to fall in May. Over the past three months, a net balance of 22 per cent of retailers said sales declined.

Barry Knight, the head of retail at Smith & Williamson, the UK accountancy firm, said the CBI data was good news, but warned: "I still think it is far too early to say 'we are in green shoots territory'. So many other factors are going to come into play, such as house prices continuing to decline, unemployment still being nowhere near its peak and the impact of the weak pound, which I think will lead to retailers having to increase prices".

Industry experts expect further restructuring activity in the retail sector over the coming months, as store groups battle hefty debts, the scaling back of their suppliers' credit insurance and wafer-thin margins. Given this backdrop, Smith & Williamson has teamed up with GA Asset Advisors, a subsidiary of the US turnaround specialist Great American Group, to enter the market for providing troubled UK retailers with operational and financial restructuring.

Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star